Herbie's Game

Free Herbie's Game by Timothy Hallinan

Book: Herbie's Game by Timothy Hallinan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Timothy Hallinan
Tags: Humor, detective, Mystery, caper
her head a bit, giving me the uptilted eyes from what she probably knew was their best angle. It made me think for a second about my pigeon. Then she said, “Well, fuck a bagful of Handkerchief Harrisons. You stay where you are.” She got up and went to the double doors that opened from the dining room onto the backyard. She shoved one of them ajar, sat on the step, and fished in her blouse for a second. Then she came up with a pack of Marlboro Reds and fired one up. She blew smoke out her nostrils and waved it away from the dining room. “This shit is supposed to be secret.”
    “One reason I’m here is to tell you to find somewhere else to be, because this one has gone wrong. The guy who started the chain has taken off, and he’s hard to scare.”
    “I was gonna have my floors redone this week.”
    “They look fine. You’ve got to think about this. This chain probably ended in an order for a hit, and here I am, asking you about Handkerchief. Maybe the hit went wrong, or maybe the hit went right, and either way the hittee’s friends are trying to climb the chain.”
    She said, “Oh,
man
.”
    “How many of these have you done?”
    She squinted at her cigarette as though it had challenged her.
    “Five? Six?”
    “Who recruited you?”
    “Girl who said her name was Laurel.”
    “Dark hair, shoulder length? Square black glasses? Kind of a head-turner?”
    “Yeah.”
    Our girl Janice. I said, “I think she’s rolling the sidewalks up behind herself, too. She told me she just got engaged and they were going on a trip together.”
    Dippy said, “I knew it was too easy.”
    “How thick was the envelope you passed on?”
    “Compared to what?”
    “Compared to the other times.”
    “Jeez.” She took a drag off the cigarette and studied the coal as though to make sure it was burning evenly. “A little thicker than usual. Given what my own envelope felt like, I’d guess there were three inside the one I passed along. Maybe two if one of them was really thick.”
    “And did you pass it on?”
    “I did.”
    “To whom?”
    She looked at me over a ribbon of smoke. “Do you really need to know that?”
    “Let me give you a hint,” I said. “Monty Carlo.” She just kept looking at me, as though she was trying to X-ray my clothing for weapons. “If you’re worried about me, call Louie and ask him if I’m dangerous. The point is, this isn’t the secret you thought it was, and you might be in the way of some people who are really, really pissed off.”
    She looked at me and then past me, and then down at the cigarette, all the while chewing on her lower lip. Then she said, “Okay, okay. He’s a—a wirehead. Never washes his hair, looks like he lives under a grow-light. Got tats all over his arms, but they’re like algebra and that other thing, with co-signers or whatever they are.”
    “Cosines? You mean, algorithms? Calculus?”
    “I guess, yeah, sure. Calculus. And he’s strange. Like Doctor Forgetto or something, the absent-minded braniac.”
    “And he’s a crook?”
    “I don’t know. I didn’t get his bio, I didn’t look him up on IMDb. But he’s in this chain, right? So he’s probably not, like, an insurance salesman. I’d guess he’s a techno-crook. Computers, coding, puzzle stuff. You know, some crooks, some dips especially, they’re like magicians? Pickpockets, magicians, techno guys, they’re always working a trick in their minds. Look right through you, thinking about some palming move or a new way to travel a card to the top of the deck. Techno guys, they’ve got the same thing. But Monty, I mean, he’s not weird compared to magicians.” She shrugged. “Nobody is.”
    “So other than Handkerchief and Monty Carlo, you don’t know any other links.”
    “Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? I knew it was coming from Hankie and I was supposed to give it to Monty, but other than that … no, no way I’d know them. It’s like a party I wasn’t invited to.”
    “Where

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